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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Al Gore Takes a Pass on Charlotte


He came ever so close to capturing the presidency in 2000, and even spoke at the 2008 convention, but this time around, Al Gore was nowhere to be seen as Democrats gathered in Charlotte, N.C., this week.

Instead, the former vice president was doling out commentary for his network, Current TV, at a New York studio, and had particular praise for his former ticketmate, Bill Clinton, with whom he had not always enjoyed the warmest ties.

“I have heard President Bill Clinton give a lot of great speeches,” he said of his former boss's speech on Wednesday, “and I honestly don't know of a better one.”

On Thursday, with a Twitter stream to the side of the screen, he said he was “so happy” that Senator John Kerry, another former failed Democratic nominee, mentioned his most-prized issue, climate change.

The panel assembled on his network for Thursday's speeches addressed him as “Mr. Vice President” and seemed to dance around the issue of his convention absence. During a break in the action, Cenk Uygur, a Current TV host, posed to each member of the panel a hypothetical: would you rather be a senator from a given state, or take a certain cabinet position? Mr. Gore was not asked.

Protests Continue on Final Night of the Convention


Five days of protests culminated in a confrontation with the police Thursday night on the last day of the Democratic National Convention, with demonstrators taking to the streets as delegates packed Time Warner Cable Arena to hear President Obama's acceptance speech.

Roughly 100 people marched from their encampment and were met immediately by police officers, who steered them away from those gathered on the streets near the arena. Protesters shouted, “Justice nowhere, police everywhere.” A standoff ensued before the protesters were allowed to continue, with their number growing as they marched.

There were four more arrests in two incidents Thursday afternoon, bringing to 25 the total number of arrests related to the convention protests.

In Speech, Obama to Plead for Patience


CHARLOTTE, N.C.-President Obama prepared to accept the Democratic nomination to run for a second term on Thursday night, and planned to say that “our problems can be solved,” while making a forceful case that in four years he has brought the economy from disaster to a recovery which would be imperiled by a return to Republican stewardship.

According to excerpts released in advance of his speech, Mr. Obama sought to define his fight for re-election as a bald “choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future,” Mr. Obama framed the upcoming election as one that will determine the economic futurethat will face generations of Americans.

“On every i ssue, the choice you face won't just be between two candidates or two parties,” Mr. Obama will say, according to the excerpts.

“When all is said and done,” Mr. Obama planned to say, “when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.”

The president will argue that the next few years will bring crucial decisions on the role of government to make better the lives of ordinary Americans, on taxes and deficits, on health care, and on the running battle to lift ordinary Americans.

“I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy,” the president said, according to the excerpts. “You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth.”

TimesCast Politics and Democratic Convention Schedule at a Glance


The Democratic National Convention culminates tonight with President Obama's acceptance speech, and The Times's political unit will be broadcasting live from Charlotte, N.C., beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Here are a few program highlights:

7 P.M. Hour

  • Jeff Zeleny, a national political correspondent, previews Mr. Obama's speech and the foreign policy focus of the night.
  • Marcus Mabry, a senior editor, interviews Colin H. Kahl of the Center for a New American Security on foreign policy.
  • Mr. Zeleny reports on the state of the campaign in Ohio.
  • Mark Leibovich, a chief national correspondent for the magazine, takes us inside life at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Charlotte.
  • Mr. Mabry sits down for an interview with Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood.
  • And from the Opinion section, Op-Ed columnists Charles M. Blow and Frank Bruni discuss this week's Google+ Hangouts.

  • 8 P.M.

  • Adam Nagourney, the Los Angeles bureau chief, interviews Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.
  • Jodi Kantor, a political correspondent, reports on the role of Sasha and Malia Obama in the president's political life.
  • Doug Mills, a staff photographer based in Washington, shares some of his favorite photos from covering Mr. Obama.
  • Richard L. Berke, an assistant managing editor, and Richard W. Stevenson, the political editor, discuss the pivot toward the general election.
  • Nate Silver, of the FiveThirtyEight blog, looks at the effect of the Democratic National Convention on the polls.
  • Jim Rutenberg, a national political correspondent, mixes it up with Samant ha Bee of “The Daily Show.”

    On the Floor

    Mr. Obama's speech will take place during the 10 o'clock hour. He will be introduced by Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.

    Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will highlight the 9 o'clock hour, and will be introduced by his wife, Jill Biden.

    The 8 o'clock hour is packed with speakers, including Caroline Kennedy, Eva Longoria, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist Jr. and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

  • Lewis Warns Delegates of Dangers of New Voter Laws


    Representative John Lewis of Georgia told the delegates at the Demotractic convention on Thursday that he first came to Charlotte, N.C., on a Freedom Ride in 1961, the year President Obama was born, and warned them that new voting laws passed in several Republican-led states requiring voter IDs and limiting early voting would make it harder for people to vote.

    “Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote,'' said Mr. Lewis, whose skull was fractured by a police nightstick in 1965 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama when troopers moved in to block a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. The day became known as Bloody Sunda y.

    Republicans say the new voting laws are needed to prevent fraud. Democrats note that such fraud almost never happens and say that the laws are an attempt to suppress the ballots of young people and members of minority groups that traditionally vote for Democrats.

    A court battle is being waged in Ohio over whether the state can curtail its early voting hours. A new voter ID law in Pennsylvania - which a top Republican lawmaker said would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” - was upheld in court last month. And last month a federal court struck down a new voter ID law in Texas, ruling that the law would hurt turnout among minority voters and impose “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor.”

    Mr. Lewis said: “Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote.”

    The party platforms differ on the issue. The Republican platform says that “we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud, particularly with regard to registration and absentee ballots.” It also says: “We support state laws that require proof of citizenship at the time of voter registration to protect our electoral system against a significant and growing form of voter fraud. Every time that a fraudulent vote is cast, it effectively cancels out a vote of a legitimate voter.”

    The Democratic platform says, “Democrats know that voter identification laws can disproportionately burden young voters, people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities and the elderly, and we refuse to allow the use of political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens.”

    Dropping the Beats at the Democratic Convention


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As the first notes of Fleetwood Mac's “Don't Stop” rang through the Time Warner Cable Arena here on Wednesday night, the packed crowd whipped into a frenzy, nearly drowning out the song as they cheered for minutes for former President Bill Clinton.

    At political conventions, entrances and entrance songs can be nearly as important as the speeches themselves. And rather than have a veteran band or arena group choreograph the music, the Democratic National Convention put its faith in one man: DJ Cassidy.

    “My idea is to get people revved up the second they walk in the door, which to be perfectly honest, is a very easy job,” he said. “You could feel the electricity in there. ”

    But his performances for the D.N.C. are unlike normal gigs. Conventions are tightly scripted events, and no beat plays unplanned.

    “I start by creating a master pool of music, feel-good, high-energy, emotionally inspiring songs,” he said. “I then refine the list with convention producers and create customized portions of the music to intro and outro each speaker. Between speakers, I am simply there to do what I do: rock the crowd. I am the one-man house band, so to speak.”

    As part D.J., part musical director, DJ Cassidy's goal is to energize the audience before the first word of each speech is uttered. And while he has a vast catalog of original music, as well as an album in the works for 2013, he recognizes what moves a crowd.

    “When you play songs that people know and recognize, that makes that spark even stronger,” he said.

    G.E. Smith, the guitarist who led the music at the Republican National Convention, didn't have much to add on his methodology for selecting songs, offering only that he plays “where the need is greatest.”

    DJ Cassidy's history with the Obama team goes back to the inauguration in 2009. He programmed the music for all 10 of the inaugural balls and performed live at the Mid-Atlantic Ball. He has since performed at various events for both Mr. Obama's campaign and the White House.

    But for Thursday, the final night of the convention, he had to hand over musical duties to the Foo Fighters and James Taylor, as he had already booked shows in New York City for Fashion Week.

    Live Updates from the Democratic Convention


    The Times will be providing updates and analysis from Charlotte on our live dashboard. You can also follow along on Twitter @thecaucus, or follow our list of Times journalists covering the convention.

    Romney\'s Next Test


    To put the question bluntly: How will Mitt Romney perform on “Meet the Press”?

    Tonight marks not just the end of the Democratic convention, but also the beginning of the final, crucial stretch of the presidential race, when schedules and arguments intensify and then intensify some more. Expect an early-morning tussle on Friday to spin the monthly jobs numbers, and later that day, the candidates will face off in the same states. Mr. Romney has events in Iowa and New Hampshire, where President Obama will simultaneously put on a show of force, campaigning with Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Dr. Jill Biden. (After that, the two sides proceed their separate ways through more swing st ates: Mr. Romney to Virginia, Mr. Obama to the critical I-4 corridor in Central Florida.)

    But the real question may be how Mr. Romney performs on television's marquee political show, under the sure-to-be tough treatment of David Gregory, the moderator. (They are taping their interview for “Meet the Press” on Saturday morning in Boston, according to Betsy Fischer Martin, the program's executive producer.) Mr. Romney generally prefers interviews by Fox News hosts or gentler questioners like Bob Schieffer of CBS News. When challenged, he can become the Mitt Romney that aides don't want anyone to see - visibly irritated, annoyed at being questioned. And keep in mind just how dangerous even unthreatening questions can be: Mr. Romney caused a huge stir in July with a simple - and factual - answer to a benign question about the London Olympics.

    Mr. Romney's interview airs on Sunday morning.

    At Convention, Obama Surrogates Tout Foreign Policy Successes


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - One of the Obama campaign's goals during the Democratic convention is to convince voters that they are better off - or at least no worse off - than they were four years ago. On Thursday night President Obama - along with Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts - will draw on the administration's foreign policy record to make the case.

    In a possible preview of the argument, Jacob Lew, the White House chief of staff, told a packed theater of international visitors to the convention that Mr. Obama had “dramatically reoriented U.S. foreign policy and restored our standing in the world.”

    Mr. Lew sought to remind listeners of the challenge Mr. Obam a faced when taking office. Because of the two wars that the president inherited, he said, “we were not able to fully seize other opportunities or meet other pressing challenges.”

    “Ending these wars is the prerequisite for the new era of engagement that President Obama promised when he came into office,” said Mr. Lew, who was also Mr. Obama's budget director and a deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Making the case for the value of foreign aid, Mr. Lew said that foreign spending “enhances the security and prosperity of not only the United States, but people around the world.”

    Mr. Lew's remarks echoed themes from an article this week by Mr. Kerry on the Web site of Foreign Policy magazine. Referencing what he called the “inheritance of President Obama,” he wrote that successes in Iraq and Afghanistan and against al Qaeda helped pave the way for a foreign policy that can allow the United Stat es to “approach a more comprehensive and nuanced agenda, an agenda that promotes American interests.”

    Mr. Kerry pulled no punches when it came to Republicans. “Theirs is a Potemkin foreign policy of all facade and no substance,” he said.

    He also criticized the Romney campaign, calling its statements on Russia and China “a waste of time when pursuing real policy issues with real consequences.” Mr. Kerry also sought to portray the administration's record on international trade as critical to the American economic recovery.

    Speaking at the same event as Mr. Lew, Madeleine Albright, a secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, also made the connection. “Domestic and foreign policy are interrelated,” she said. “Never has this been truer than now.”

    Ms. Albright also criticized the Romney campaign for referring to Russia as America's “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” saying that Mr. Romney's advisers were “living in a different centu ry.”

    “There is a one- or two-dimensional view that the Romney people seem to have in terms of what national security is about,” she added.

    When she was the nation's top diplomat, Ms. Albright was prevented from appearing at political conventions, as is the case now for Mrs. Clinton. Ms. Albright seemed to enjoy having a chance to jump into the fray.

    “When I was secretary of state, I had my partisan instincts surgically removed,” she said. “They've all grown back.”

    Bill Clinton Draws More Viewers Than N.F.L. Opener


    More people watched former President Bill Clinton's speech to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night than tuned in to see the N.F.L. season opener.

    But the game appeared to cut into the convention's ratings, which were lower than Tuesday night's.

    According to preliminary ratings from Nielsen, 20.6 million watched the convention from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., while 20.1 million people watched the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game during the same hour.

    Both events had fewer viewers in that hour than Michelle Obama's speech on Tuesday, the first night of the convention. About 26.2 million people tuned in to hear the first lady, Nielsen reported.

    Mrs. Obama was also a bigger draw than Ann Romney, the wife of Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, whose speech last week at the Republican convention attracted 22.3 million viewers.

    From 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., ABC was the most-watched network, with 4.59 million viewers. CBS had 4.41 million; MSNBC had 4.39 million; CNN had 4.13 million; and Fox News drew 3.1 million.

    In a telling sign of who is tuning in more â€" liberals or conservatives â€" MSNBC beat Fox News in the ratings for the second night in a row. Yet last week during the Republican National Convention, Fox News had higher ratings than anyone, including the traditional broadcast networks.

    So far, interest in the Democratic National Convention is on par with 2008, when the first and second nights were seen by 22.3 million and 26 million people, respectively.

    Ryan Does Not Bite Back After Clinton Attack


    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo - A day after Bill Clinton attacked Representative Paul D. Ryan‘s Medicare plan by saying “it takes some brass” to make the claims he has, Mr. Ryan did not mention the former president at a rally here on Thursday.

    Instead, Mr. Ryan repeated a staple of his stump speeches, telling supporters, “This debate about Medicare is a debate we want, it's a debate we're going to have and it's a debate we're going to win.''

    On Wednesday in Iowa, Mr. Ryan had praised Mr. Clinton as a model bipartisan president. He said his Medicare plan had roots in a commission that made similar recommendations when Mr. Clinton was president.

    But on Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, Mr. Clinton thoroughly rejected the backhanded compliment. He denounced Mr. Ryan for his remarks at the Republican convention attacking President Obama's health care law as “the biggest, coldest power play” by targeting older Americans for $716 billion in Medicare cuts. The law actually carves out those savings to expand coverage to the uninsured.

    “That $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he had in his own budget,'' Mr. Clinton said, referring to the Ryan budget plan that the House passed this spring. “It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.''

    Anticipating Mr. Obama's appearance on the final night of the convention on Thursday, Mr. Ryan recalled his 2008 acceptance speech in Denver.

    “You know, right here in Colorado four years ago with the Styrofoam Greek columns, the big stadium, the president gave this long speech with lots of big promises,'' Mr. Ryan said.

    “President Obama can give great speeches,'' he added. “He can blame other people, the past. But he can't tell you we are better off as a nation.''

    Mr. Ryan needled the Democrats over some embarrassing moments at the party they are putting on in Charlotte.

    “Their convention actually began with a tribute to big government,'' he said. “They actually said government is the only thing we all belong to.''

    The crowd of more than 1,500 filling an airplane hangar booed.

    “Then they cut references to God out of their platform,'' Mr. Ryan added.

    More boos echoed.

    “They reversed course on that one yesterday,'' he said. “It wasn't really a popular reversal, if you watch it on the TV. But to quote a prominent journalist from Wisconsin, they were against God before they were for him.''

    The reference was to a joke by Jim VandeHei of Politico on “Morning Joe,'' a journalist from Mr. Ryan's home state.

    Mr. Ryan also pulled a line from a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward on the fiscal stalemate in Washington, excerpts of which have begun appearing in the news media.

    “You know it was just reported that in the middle of President Obama's debt ceiling negotiations last summer, Vice President Biden said, quote, ‘You know, if I were doing this, I'd do it totally different,'” Mr. Ryan said. “It sounds like Joe and I finally agree on something.''

    The crowd laughed appreciatively. According to accounts of Mr. Woodward's book, “The Price of Politics,'' which goes behind the curtain during the failure of talks between the White House and Congressional Republicans to reach a compromise over the debt last summer, Mr. Biden was complaining to the House majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, about Mr. Obama's handling of negotiations.

    Mr. Ryan did not repeat what Mr. Woodward says Mr. Cantor said in reply.

    “You know, if I were doing this , I'd do it totally different,” Mr. Cantor said, a criticism of Speaker John A. Boehner's handling of the Republican side of the talks, according to the book.

    Romney Isn\'t Planning to Watch Obama\'s Speech


    CONCORD, N.H. â€" Tens of millions of people are expected to tune into President Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night. But Mitt Romney doesn't plan on being one of them.

    “Haven't watched so far. Don't plan on it,” Mr. Romney said at a surprise visit here with a group of veterans.

    Mr. Romney's appearance was his only public event during an otherwise quiet day spent preparing for the coming debates and traveling back to his home in Wolfeboro, N.H.

    His motorcade pulled off the highway here at around 2:30 p.m. and showed up unannounced as a Veterans for Romney chapter was holding a news conference for the local news media.

    Mr. Romney used the occasion to get out ahead of the president's speech and attack his record over the last three and a half years in office. What the president will not say tonight, Mr. Romney said, is how he broke his promises to the American people.

    “There are forgotten promises and forgotten people,” he said, standing just outside the state Capitol. “Over the last four years, the president has said he was going to create jobs for the American people, and that hasn't happened. He said he would cut the deficit in half, and that hasn't happened. He said that incomes would rise. And instead incomes have gone down.”

    As he was walking back toward his waiting S.U.V., Mr. Romney conceded that he would “love to watch,” but only if Mr. Obama made no new promises.

    “If it's another series of new promises that he's not going to keep, I have no interest in seeing him because I saw the promises last time,” Mr. Romney said. “Those are promises he did not keep , and the American people deserve to know why he did not keep his promises.”

    Obama Praises Clinton and Talks Stadium Move in Call With Supporters


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bill Clinton's prosecutorial speech to the Democratic convention on Wednesday night went as far as anyone has this year in delineating the differences between the Democratic and Republican agendas, President Obama said on Thursday.

    During a conference call meant to buck up disappointed supporters who would miss his convention speech Thursday night, Mr. Obama credited Mr. Clinton's rousing speech Wednesday night, saying that Mr. Clinton “broke down the issues as effectively as anyone could.”

    Mr. Obama was supposed to deliver his big acceptance speech Thursday night at the Bank of America football stadium here, in an effort to evoke the fervor and emotional pitch of his Denver a cceptance speech four years ago. But organizers said that forecast rain necessitated moving the big stadium speech to the smaller Time Warner Cable Arena. That also meant that thousands of supporters who traveled to Charlotte to hear Mr. Obama in person would instead be watching the closing festivities on TV. Mr. Obama said he regretted having to move the event, but didn't want to put safety at risk because of inclement weather.

    “We can't let a little thunder and lightning get us down,” Mr. Obama told supporters during a short, low-key call. “We're going to roll with it.”

    Clinton Was Not Always an Obama Fan, Romney Ad Recalls


    Ad Watch

    Tracking and analyzing campaign advertising.

    Bill Clinton proved Wednesday night to be one of President Obama's most forceful and substantive surrogates, but he has hardly been the most consistent. In fact, in a new ad, Mitt Romney's campaign is reminding voters that Mr. Clinton was once a sharp critic of Mr. Obama, in 2008.

    “Give me a break,” Mr. Clinton said in New Hampshire on the eve of that state's primary more than four years ago, when Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. Obama were in a tight race for the Democratic nomination. “This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen, ” he said of Mr. Obama's position on the Iraq war.

    Mr. Clinton's words drew immediate criticism from Democrats, especially African-Americans.

    The ad notes that Mr. Clinton is sounding a different tune today, though it casts him as “a good soldier, helping his party's president” after being called upon to support a “failing campaign.”

    The narrator then recites recent unemployment figures and says that the middle class is falling “further behind” before the “Give me a break” clip rolls a second time.

    The Romney camp has spoken well of Mr. Clinton's presidency. Stumping in Iowa on Wednesday, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the vice-presidential nominee, noted Mr. Clinton's economic successes and said that Mr. Romney would save the welfare reforms that the 42nd president enacted.

    The Romney campaign declined to provide any details about where the ad was running, its standard practice, and the Obama campa ign did not offer an immediate response. But after Mr. Clinton's 48-minute convention speech, one thing is clearly better off than it was four years ago: the Clinton-Obama relationship.

    Weighing Prepaid Cards vs. Checking Accounts


    Prepaid cards can be a better deal than checking accounts for some people, but the cards need more consumer safeguards, a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts finds.

    Along with the report, “Loaded with Uncertainty,” Pew introduced an online tool to help consumers determine which option is best for them.

    The report divides consumers into three types in terms of their banking expertise: “savvy,” who use direct deposit and avoid fees whenever possible; “basic,” who aren't as proficient at avoiding fees and have at least one overdraft fee a month; and “inexperienced,” who make heavy use of services but typically pay two overdraft fees a month.

    Then, the researchers applied those characteristics to more than 200 checking accounts offered by the 12 largest banks, and 52 prepaid cards available online, to see which accounts best-suited each category.

    For savvy consumers, checking accounts are the most economical, with a median monthly cost of about $4, compared with $4.50 for prepaid cards. Inexperienced consumers, however, did better with prepaid cards, which cost them a median of about $29 a month, compared with $94 for checking accounts.

    Still, the cards carry myriad fees, and disclosure isn't uniform. So just because a card doesn't disclose that it charges a fee, for instance, doesn't mean that it doesn't charge it. There's simply no way for consumers to know until they end up incurring the charge.

    Also, balances on prepaid cards don't always have clear protection from F.D.I.C. insurance, the report found. If a bank fails, the agency reimburses deposits up to $250,000. But many companies that offer pr epaid cards aren't banks and don't hold the funds themselves. Rather, they pool funds in large accounts at a third-party bank, where the money may be covered by so-called “pass-through” insurance, which may be more tenuous, the report says.

    Of the 52 cards Pew studied, only three indicated that they lacked F.D.I.C. insurance. But there is no federal oversight or supervision of prepaid companies that aren't banks, to make sure the proper requirements for the insurance are met, Pew found.

    “Claims of F.D.I.C. insurance in cases where portions of consumers' funds may in fact be uninsured create a false sense of security for unsuspecting consumers,” the report said.

    The report urges the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to create better oversight of the cards.

    Do you use prepaid cards? Do you prefer them to checking accounts?

    Obama Touts Clinton and Talks Stadium Move in Call With Supporters


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bill Clinton's prosecutorial speech to the Democratic convention on Wednesday night went as far as anyone has this year in delineating the differences between the Democratic and Republican agendas, President Obama said on Thursday.

    During a conference call meant to buck up disappointed supporters who would miss his convention speech Thursday night, Mr. Obama credited Mr. Clinton's rousing speech Wednesday night, saying that Mr. Clinton “broke down the issues as effectively as anyone could.”

    Mr. Obama was supposed to deliver his big acceptance speech Thursday night at the Bank of America football stadium here, in an effort to evoke the fervor and emotional pitch of his Denver a cceptance speech four years ago. But organizers said that forecast rain necessitated moving the big stadium speech to the smaller Time Warner Cable Arena. That also meant that thousands of supporters who traveled to Charlotte to hear Mr. Obama in person would instead be watching the closing festivities on TV.

    “We can't let a little thunder and lightning get us down,” Mr. Obama told supporters during a short, low-key call. “We're going to roll with it.”

    What to Watch for in Obama\'s Speech


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - President Obama takes the stage tonight competing against a formidable array of convention speakers: Mitt Romney, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton - and Barack Obama.

    Not easy. Still, one thing Mr. Obama has proved over the years is that he can deliver the big speech, particularly when he might be backed into a corner. And Mr. Obama has big advantage here: He is going last.

    Here are a few things to watch out for when Mr. Obama takes the stage.

    - One of Mr. Romney's most effective arguments last week was directed at Obama voters of 2008. The president, Mr. Romney said, was a perfectly nice man who was over his head in the White House, and it was O.K., he said, to vote against hi m as expression of disappointment. Nothing personal. Mr. Obama is going to have to find a way to turn that back. He might argue to disappointed supporters that they should stick with him through this election, appealing to their reservoir of personal affection. But he could also try to simply demonize Mr. Romney.

    - Speaking of which, how much will the name “Mitt Romney” be heard tonight? Mr. Obama has attacked Mr. Romney, harshly and often, on the campaign trail over the last few weeks, particularly on his business background and his refusal to release more years of tax returns. Many Democrats have warned that Mr. Obama risked dragging himself down with those kinds of partisan attacks, and some suspect that they have pushed down his unfavorable ratings in some polls. And a national television audience is a different venue than a campaign rally, so there is a pretty strong argument not to reprise them here, particularly because so many previous speakers have already taken on Mr. Romney.

    Still, Mr. Obama has a rare opportunity to draw the contrast between himself and Mr. Romney on issues and what they will do as president, and turn this fall campaign into the kind of election he has always said he wanted: a starkly different choice between two visions of government's role in America's future. Last night, Mr. Clinton offered Mr. Obama a road map on how to present that choice, and Mr. Obama is not too proud to take such advice from the last Democratic president.

    - The so-called peanut gallery - strategists, columnists, contributors and the like - have not shied from offering their suggestions on what Mr. Obama should put in the speech. One of the most striking suggestions was to use this speech to lay out a detailed and politically ambitious plan to deal with the deficit. That seems unlikely, but you never know.

    - Mr. Obama's campaign has, not surprisingly, tried to keep a lid on details of the speech. But he put out a Web-only video on Thursday that offered a bit of a preview of what he will say, called “Promises Kept.” “From cutting taxes for middle-class families to bringing about comprehensive health care reform to reinvesting in education and infrastructure, President Obama has kept his promise to rebuild America for millions of families,” the video said.

    - This convention has been notable for the repeated focus, every night, on social issues: There has been talk about abortion rights, contraception, same-sex marriage and the lifting of the ban on gays serving openly in the military. The issues play well inside the convention; but perhaps not as well across the country. Will Mr. Obama feel a need to spend much time talking about these issues, or has that box already been checked?

    - Latino voters have been one of the main targets of this convention - witness the lineup of speakers - but Mr. Obama has had at times rocky relations with the se voters because of what many saw as his delay in pushing an overhaul of the immigration law and the administration's aggressive crackdown on illegal immigrants. He helped himself by issuing an executive order delaying deportation proceedings against many young immigrants who are in this country illegally. Still, immigration seems like one topic that is going to be hard for Mr. Obama to avoid.

    - Mr. Obama's aides said this would be a forward-looking speech, and Mr. Clinton certainly helped a lot by making the case against Republicans and their conduct over the last four years. But watch to see the extent to which Mr. Obama blames Republicans for struggles during his first term. Might Mr. Obama acknowledge some errors over his first four years?

    - Tonight's speech was originally supposed to be in a stadium - a reprise of Mr. Obama's triumphant convention speech in Denver four years ago - but fear of bad weather prompted convention organizers to move it back insid e. That means a smaller crowd and, at least, potentially less energy. It also means that unlike last time, this will look like just another convention speech in an arena. Whether anyone outside the arena will notice is another question.

    One big loss (unless convention planners pulled off a miracle Wednesday night): Not enough time to string up the balloon drop that photographers so love.

    Cuomo Delivers Convention Speech - of Sorts


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In his sole public appearance at a national party gathering in which he simultaneously avoided and stoked national attention, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday delivered a convention-style speech filled with tart-tongued denunciations of Republican economic policies as well as praise for New York as a progressive ideal for the country.

    The governor, speaking at a breakfast sponsored by the New York State Democratic Committee, offered an unmistakable argument for his leadership as a new model of how Democrats can govern - on taxes, education and same-sex marriage - and struck many as a preview of the case for a presidential run by Mr. Cuomo in 2016.

    Although he was speaking to 400 New Yorkers in a banquet tent on the outskirts of the city, Mr. Cuomo's speech seemed tailored to the Democratic National Convention hall 10 miles away, as he slipped between addressing his audience as “New Yorkers” and “America,” blew air-kisses and strutted off the balloon-bedecked stage to Bon Jovi's “Work for the Working Man.”

    “When one of us is raised, we are all raised,” he said, his voice rising to a full shout as the crowd leapt to its feet. “When one of us is low, we are all low.”

    “The sweetest success,” he said, “is shared success.”

    Mr. Cuomo, unlike several other possible 2016 presidential contenders, had declined a speaking slot on the convention program, and refused to hobnob with Democratic activists this week. He canceled a fund-raiser with top Democratic donors to avoid unwanted headlines. He waited until Thursday morning to fly in from New York, and planned a quick exit after President Obama's speech Thursday evening.

    But the preparations surrounding the address by Mr. Cuomo were extensive. Aides set up rope lines to pen in dozens of reporters for his speech, and after he finished, the normally voluble and friendly governor es caped through a side exit, rather than mingling with guests.

    His address was the most anticipated event of the week for the New York political establishment, drawing much of the state's Congressional delegation, as well as a figure who rarely accompanies Mr. Cuomo to local political events: his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, who sprung out of her folding chair at applause lines like a seasoned campaign spouse.

    Clinton Was a Bipartisan President, Except When He Wasn\'t


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. â€" Perhaps only Bill Clinton could deliver one of the most brutal partisan poundings of the other party in recent memory and come out of it with people talking about how bipartisan he is.

    For 48 minutes on Wednesday night, he extolled the virtues of working with Republicans, then eviscerated them as dangerous radicals. He offered more abundant praise of George W. Bush than most prime-time speakers at the Republican convention, then said he had left President Obama “a total mess.”

    “It was a pretty bipartisan speech relative to a convention,” Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Vermont governor, said on CBS News on Thursday morning.

    Former Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, another former party chairman, pointed out the caveat. “It was bipartisan,” he said. “It was a little bit like giving someone flowers at the same time you're taking a scalpel and dissecting them.”

    In that sense, the speech was a vivid reminder of Mr. Clinton's famed capacity for juggling many different ideas, personas and narratives, and along the way rewriting the history of his own presidency. The story line of a relatively bipartisan era when Democrats and Republicans came together to overhaul welfare, balance the budget and expand the economy profoundly oversimplifies a much more complicated, messier presidency.

    As it happens, the revised version of history is something of a bipartisan conspiracy. As much as Mr. Clinton wants to emphasize those elements of his record, so now do Republicans, as a way of contrasting the popular Mr. Clinton with the not-so-popular Mr. Obama. They have praised Mr. Clinton as a bipartisan c entrist, as opposed to the leftist Mr. Obama.

    “Bill Clinton was a different kind of Democrat than Barack Obama,” Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, told CNN before the former president's speech. “Bill Clinton gave us welfare reform. Bill Clinton worked with the Republicans to cut spending. Bill Clinton did not play the kind of political games that President Obama's playing.”

    After the speech, Mitt Romney's campaign pressed home that theme. “President Clinton drew a stark contrast between himself and President Obama tonight,” said Ryan Williams, a campaign spokesman. “Bill Clinton worked with Republicans, balanced the budget and after four years he could say you were better off. Barack Obama hasn't worked across the aisle.”

    It is certainly true that Mr. Clinton in his instincts and messaging was more centrist than Mr. Obama, and the 42nd president emerged from the White House with a string of achievements that both parties laid claim to. But to say that Mr. Clinton worked together with Speaker Newt Gingrich's Republicans on welfare, spending, trade and other issues is an exercise in selective amnesia.

    Mr. Clinton's first major budget plan passed Congress without a single Republican vote. Once Mr. Gingrich's party took over Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, the two men clashed over spending so fiercely that the government was shut down. The two sides eventually drafted a plan to balance the budget, but it was made considerably easier by an economy that was growing so fast that few genuinely hard choices had to be made â€" and in fact the budget became balanced years before it was envisioned because of unexpectedly strong tax revenues.

    Likewise, many talk today about how Mr. Clinton and Republicans worked together on overhauling welfare. Not exactly. Mr. Clinton had long supported limiting the number of years that reci pients could receive benefits, requiring work in many instances and providing child care, training and other assistance to make that possible.

    But he strongly opposed Mr. Gingrich's more conservative vision of welfare and twice vetoed Republican proposals before bowing to the political winds in an election year and signing a third, somewhat modified version. Even then, he spoke out against limits on benefits to legal immigrants and promised to overhaul the overhaul.

    By the time he appeared at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte on Wednesday night, Mr. Clinton was grayer and memories fuzzier. The fights of his generation have faded with time, and the accomplishments have been accordioned into simple sentences. At some points it even seemed that Mr. Clinton had forgotten some of the harshest moments of his own time in the White House.

    “Though I often disagree with Republicans,” he said, “I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now c ontrols their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.”

    This from the man who was hated so much by Republicans that they impeached him for lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky â€" and who loathed a number of his enemies back.

    But Mr. Clinton, more than most politicians, has always been able to reimagine himself and his place in America, and he has a knack for eventually reconciling with those he battled against.

    He beat the elder George Bush in 1992, then once out of office became such good friends with him that they hang out in the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Me. He beat Bob Dole for re-election in 1996, then bestowed on him the Medal of Freedom. He campaigned against George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 but now travels the country with him giving joint speeches.

    He even broke bread at points with conservative figures like Richard Mellon Scaife, Rupert Murdoch and Christopher Ruddy who were among his biggest antagonis ts in the 1990s. (The one exception has always been Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated his attempts to cover up his affair with Ms. Lewinsky in a sexual harassment lawsuit. “That's another kettle of fish,” he once said.)

    In any case, Mr. Clinton's speech on Wednesday night was seen as a template for Mr. Obama, an example of how to run in a difficult year. “Cooperation works better,” Mr. Clinton said and noted the various Republicans Mr. Obama had appointed. But he went on to say that Republican plans “will hurt poor kids,” explode the debt, “force seniors to pay more for drugs,” cut taxes for millionaires and raise them for the middle class.

    “They want to go back to the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place,” he said. Then he appropriated the Republicans' greatest recent hero, Ronald Reagan. “As another president once said, there they go again.”

    The truth is that party conventions and e lection campaigns are partisan affairs. If Mr. Clinton provided any lesson for the current president on Wednesday, it might not be in how to be bipartisan, but how to be partisan and win while not looking like it.

    The Caucus Click: Axelrod Getting Anxious


    A \'Dreamer\' Addresses the Democratic Convention


    Benita Veliz was only at the lectern at the Democratic convention for a few minutes on Wednesday night. CNN did not even turn its cameras on the stage during her brief speech. But for many Latinos in the hall, her moment under the lights was a stunning surprise.

    Ms. Veliz, who is from San Antonio, is a leader of a group of young undocumented immigrants who call themselves Dreamers, because they would be eligible for legal status under a bill, long stalled in Congress, called the Dream Act. Her speech was the highest profile public appearance to date by an immigrant from that movement, and it was a measure of how young people have emerged from the shadows despite their illegal status.

    Like Julia n Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, a Latino who gave the convention's keynote address on Tuesday, Ms. Veliz narrated an immigration story.

    “I was brought here as a child. I've been here ever since,” she said. “I graduated as valedictorian of my class at the age of 16 and earned a double major at the age of 20. I know I have something to contribute to my economy and my country.”

    But Ms. Veliz's story had a catch: “I've had to live almost my entire life knowing I could be deported just because of the way I came here,” she said.

    She praised President Obama for an executive action he took in June to suspend the deportation of undocumented students and give them work permits. As many as 1.7 million young immigrants could be eligible, and in an interview after her speech, Ms. Veliz said she was one of them and was preparing her application.

    Until recently Latinos were showing signs of disappointment with Mr. Oba ma, because he failed to keep a promise to pass an immigration overhaul and deported large numbers of immigrants. But to many Latino and immigrant advocates, Ms. Veliz's time on the stage was a sign that the Obama campaign will not shy away from the thorny issue of illegal immigration, but will work to rally Latino voters with pledges to pass the Dream Act in a second term.

    “It was a sign of acceptance for Dreamers at the highest political levels that would have been unthinkable even three years ago,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, which advocates for legislation to give legal status to illegal immigrants. “The president leaned in to the issue instead of steering clear of it, and it is putting a lot of pressure on Republicans who labeled these immigrants as criminals in their platform.”

    Not everyone in the Dreamer movement is so enthusiastic. On Tuesday, 10 undocumented immigrants were arrested as they blocked traffic near the convention center in protest. They came to Charlotte after a two-month journey on a bus from Phoenix to demand that Mr. Obama do more to help those immigrants gain a legal foothold in this country. They came straight to the Democratic convention without stopping at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., saying they held no hope for help from Republicans.

    The Republicans said little on illegal immigration during their convention, since it has been divisive for them and statements by the candidates during the nominating fight distanced the party from Latino voters who could be a major factor in several swing states in November.

    Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that favors many tough curbs on illegal immigration that Republicans have endorsed, said Ms. Veliz's appearance at the Democratic convention was “nothing more than a celebration of lawlessness.”

    Do We Really Need a Tooth Fairy App?


    Here's one for the list of  tools you can probably live without: An app for iPhones and iPads that helps compute what the tooth fairy should leave for your child.

    Now, just in case there any children who are avid Bucks readers, I'm not saying that the tooth fairy doesn't exist - just that he or she may confer with parents to determine the amount of money that is left under your pillow. The amount may vary, based on where you live, and by family (or fairy) tradition.

    I am saying, however, that parents who need an app to tell them what value to place on their child's bicuspids may need to get a life.

    The app strikes me as appealing to well-meaning but possibly obsessive parents who complicate ch ildhood by overthinking details that should just be fun.

    And don't get me started about parents who keep introducing new varieties of fairies. For instance, the “Halloween Fairy,” who takes away excess candy after the holiday - apparently to avoid cavities and/or obesity. I explained to my children that that particular fairy doesn't visit our home, because we know when we should stop eating sweets.

    News coverage of the tooth fairy app, which was created by Visa, included quotes from psychologists warning of the possible stigma that may await children who learn that their tooth fairy leaves less than their classmates'. According to an article in USA Today, Nobody wants to be the parent whose child is “the talk at recess,” because of a frugal Tooth Fairy, says Amy Moncarz, a second-grade teacher at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Rockville, Md.

    Actually, I'd be more upset if my child was the “talk of recess” for eating dirt or bullying a classmate, but maybe that's just me.

    In a news release, Visa announced that a survey it conducted found that the average gift per tooth was now $3, up from $2.60 last year, and that some lucky children get $5 or more per tooth. (Are they gold teeth, one wonders?) The survey results are based on 2,000 phone interviews in July and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

    I didn't download the app but tried the tool online. It tells you what children of parents similar to you, in terms of education and income, are getting. My children seem to be faring well; their tooth fairy leaves $2 per tooth, while the average where we live is $1, according to the tool. But did I really need to know that?

    Maybe tooth fairies should adopt an idea proposed by the author Bruce Feiler, and give a book instead.

    Let us know what you think: Are we overdoing it with a tooth fairy app?

    Thursday Reading: Tips for Succeeding in College


    A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.